Notes and Editorial Reviews
The young Richter live: already peerless.
Here is Richter ‘from the archives’ in 1950, aged 35, offering invaluable evidence of his early astounding range and mastery, his wildness and idiosyncrasy. The anonymous insert-note makes great play of the supposed rivalry between his elemental view of Chopin and Artur Rubinstein’s urbanity; the seriousness of the one and ‘the unbearable lightness of the other’. Such writing omits Richter’s respect for his colleague who he held in awe, particularly in Chopin; such idle gossip is the stuff of superficiality. Suffice it to say that Richter’s and Rubinstein’s approach to Chopin could hardly be more different.
The opening pages of the Second Ballade are cunningly
inflected, quite without a customary innocence, and here Richter’s restless rubato hints at the storms to come, at the Siberian whirlwind he later unleashes. The First Scherzo’s seething violence (for Anton Rubinstein ‘an infernal banquet’) benefits no less from Richter’s volcanic force, though his disembodied ethereal entry into the central Più lento is no less typical. The G minor Nocturne is given with an exquisite brooding inwardness and all-Russian legato and cantabile and if his unsettled view of the G major Nocturne runs counter to its idyllic state he is never less than hypnotic and fascinating.
Richter’s selection of the Preludes (he was rarely one for complete sets) includes a heart-aching view of Chopin’s ‘blueness’ – his zal, or melancholy – in the E minor, a delectable realisation of Chopin’s dolce in No 7, that briefest of mazurkas, but also a pace and fury in Nos 19 and 23 that erases too much of their moods and, more particularly, the magical final suspension of the F major Prelude. One can almost hear Rubinstein querying, ‘why so fast, why so agitated?’ But these are quibbles when set beside the glory of a recital beyond price, one that easily survives a recording which billows into prominence one minute and recedes the next. All the same and given the circumstances, the sound is impressive for 1950.
-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone [9/2003]
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